BRADEN WELCOMES THE A’S NEW ADDITION
This is why we love Dallas Braden. Whether it’s Hideki Matsui or Manny Ramirez, he’s a One Man Welcoming Committee. As you may recall, last year Mr. 209 came up with this nifty idea to entertain dozens of Japanese media who were staked out in the clubhouse to chronicle the arrival of national hero Matsui. Weeks earlier, Braden had mail-ordered a life-sized blow-up Godzilla. He was like a kid on Christmas morning when the box arrived at Phoenix Muni. Along with the help of a few teammates, Braden decorated the synthetic creature much in the same fashion he would have decorated his Christmas Tree. No. 55 A’s jersey. Check. Yellow wristbands. Check. Oakland cap. Check. Jockstrap. Why, of course, check. When Matsui finally arrived and turned the corner into the clubhouse, all he saw was about 40 new teammates staring at him to see what his reaction would be to Dallas’ handiwork. Of course, Hideki didn’t immediately see his inflatable likeness. All he saw were 80 eyeballs focused on him. Then he looked to his left and saw The Creature sitting in the chair at his cubicle and everyone broke out laughing.
Now fast forward to 2012 Spring Training. Earlier this week, word of Manny’s signing with the A’s blew through the social media world like sagebrush in the Arizona desert. On cue, Braden’s intricate brain waves activated. What to do? What to do? First, affable equipment manager Steve Vucinich assigned Ramirez a locker adjacent from Braden’s. I have a feeling “Vuc” made that decision solely for entertainment value. Within minutes of Manny reporting this morning, Braden laid down his version of a welcome mat. Without saying a word, a roll of trainer’s tape in hand, Dallas walked to his locker with great purpose. He proceeded to lay down tape to outline a square around his chair. Then, with a sharpie, he simply wrote “Bio Hazard” on the tape—apparently an effort to keep the media mobs away from crushing him when they leave Manny’s locker. But Dallas was not done yet. Then, with a wry smile on his face, he walked around the corner from his locker to the walkway where players first enter the clubhouse each morning. There, he posted a sign that simply read, “Manny Town.” Below that, he taped up another sign that said, “Take A Number.”
I’m not sure if Manny saw the signs before he left the clubhouse today, but if he didn’t, they will greet him in the morning when the A’s stage their first full-squad workouts. As for today, Ramirez could not have been more cordial. After being outfitted in his green-and-gold gear and shaking hands with many of his new teammates, he hit the Phoenix Muni field for a round of batting practice with other position players. With cameras rolling—ESPN, Comcast, FOX Sports, ESPN Deportes, NHK Japan—Manny joined Scott Sizemore, Cliff Pennington and Jemile Weeks in the first hitting group. It didn’t take long for a few balls to sail out of the yard, some flying high and far enough to suggest Oakland added a little power with today’s new arrival. With his final swing of the morning, Ramirez trotted around the bases, then picked up his glove and shagged balls in right field. A few minutes later, he spotted his beautiful wife, Juliana, and their two young sons on the grass near the first base dugout. He came over to apply a Manny Group Hug. All smiles everywhere, they joined him in addressing the large media contingent gathered on the field. Manny answered all their questions and seemed in no rush to leave the spotlight. Yet, while he stood up to the TV glare, Dallas Braden was multi-tasking. Beyond his Manny Town antics, the veteran A’s left-hander—and we do mean left-hander—was also working on a way to properly acknowledge the unexpected star treatment of Brandon & Amanda McCarthy on this month’s cover of ESPN The Magazine. “I’ve got a big ol’ Fathead coming, except they’re superimposing my face on his head,” Dallas said. “It will be displayed in a way that should properly honor them.”
And to think there were people in the Bay Area who thought the A’s were going to be boring this season.